Ben Brooke Jump-starts Petroleum Institute Baja SAE Program

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Ben Brooke

Ben Brooke arrived at the Petroleum Institute (PI) in October 2011 to build a Baja SAE program at PI. In this program, students design, build, and race a small off-road vehicle that can survive rough terrain and environmental conditions. The Baja SAE teams participate in international competitions that simulate the process of bringing a new product to the industrial market.

Ben graduated in 2011 from the honors program of the University of Maryland’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, with a concentration on Vehicle Dynamics. He is the recipient of many awards and honors, including a Northrop Grumman Scholarship, the Society of Automotive Engineers Senior Award, the Department of Mechanical Engineering Chairman’s Award, and the Department of Mechanical Engineering Chair’s Award for Leadership. Ben was involved as a project manager or lead machinist in many projects during his undergraduate years, including as project manager for the University of Maryland’s Formula SAE team. In this project, Ben led thirty undergraduate students as they designed, fabricated and raced an open wheel, Formula-style race car for the Formula SAE international competition, against 120 other college teams. Under his leadership, the UMD team took fourth place out of sixty competitors.

Baja programThe University of Maryland sent the 2007 Terps Baja vehicle to PI in the summer of 2011, to be used in the Baja program at PI. When Ben arrived at PI in October, he was pleased to find that the Mechanical Engineering department at PI, and Dr. Nader Vahdati, who is running the Baja SAE program, had already taken significant steps to set up the program and had provided the team with a spacious meeting room as well as access to machining and fabrication equipment. During the past fall semester Ben taught an introductory course on vehicle fundamentals to fifteen students, in which he assigned the students the task of analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the 2007 Terps Racing Baja vehicle and identifying areas for improvement. He also started working with the students on an individual basis to develop the fabrication skills necessary to build a Baja SAE vehicle. Meanwhile, he has been engaged in procuring the specialized equipment needed for this project as well as the material needed to complete the Baja SAE vehicle itself.

This semester Ben will train the students to become self-sufficient and drive each other to make informed design decisions that will help them complete their project on time and independently. During the spring semester of 2012 he will task the students with the design of individual components on the Baja SAE vehicle and fabrication of these parts in order to complete the vehicle by the end of the semester. His meetings with students will begin to trend away from lessons on vehicle dynamics towards lessons on running design meetings themselves and setting specific deadlines for goals that have to be met in order to complete their inaugural vehicle.
Ben and Dr. Vahdati plan to travel to the United States with a team of PI students to attend a Baja SAE competition in June.

Published March 5, 2012